California is one of the most biologically diverse states in the country. The northern part of the state houses rich, dense forests - while the southern portion is covered in dry desert environments. Because of this, California is in no way short of unique hiking opportunities.
Today, we are going to focus on the southern part of the state, where sparse desert environments offer surprisingly rich hiking experiences. One such spot in particular is the Deep Creek hot spring, a collection of thermal hot springs in the middle of the desert.
Deep Creek Hot Springs Location and How to Get There
This hiking and camping trail is located within the San Bernardino National Forest. The forest itself is incredibly varied in vegetation, containing everything from coniferous to deciduous oak woodland.
The drainage from the forest funnels into Deep Creek, which then falls into hot springs further down the stream. It is a landscape you don’t see every day, and for those looking for something a little different, this is the perfect place to hike or camp.
Bowen Ranch Trail
The hot springs are located outside of Apple Valley in the Mojave Desert. There are two different trails you can take to get to the springs. One goes through private land on the Bowen Ranch Road. If you take this route, a small fee is charged in order to compensate the owner of the land.
This route also requires you to take a rather steep decline in order to reach the springs, which means the trek back will be rather strenuous. This trail is roughly 2.5 miles long, which is substantially shorter than the alternative route, the Pacific Crest Trail.
Pacific Crest Trail
The Pacific Crest Trail is another option for reaching the springs. This is a much longer hike rounding up at about 6 miles long. While the whole of the Pacific Crest Trail starts in Mexico and ends in Canada, the short stretch of trail that leads to the hot springs will begin in Arrowhead Road heading east.
You might find many hardcore hiking enthusiasts on this trail. The Pacific Crest Trail is famous for those daring enough to hike across the country heading north to south or vice versa.
Deep Creek serves as a welcoming oasis for these hikers, so finding the place occupied with hiking enthusiasts or casual indulgers will not be too uncommon.
What You Will Find at the Hot Springs
There are about 7 hot spring pools to choose from and enjoy. The smaller pools tend to be hotter than the larger, so there are a variety of temperature options depending on your plans and mood.
The most popular pool is the largest as it is deep enough to swim in. It is also cool enough so you can do a little more than just sit and soak. The average temperature of the pools is 100 degrees Fahrenheit so be prepared to be hot!
The Springs are Clothing Optional
Nudity is fairly common here, as is the case with most hot springs. Keep in mind that the people enjoying this location are going to be a rather open, accepting community.
In other words, you should have very few qualms about interacting with strangers in their birthday suits.
Rare or Endangered Species
The creek that drains from the forest and into the hot springs is also home to a rare and endangered species called the Southwestern Arroyo Toad. You can usually only see this toad at night as it hides away from the extreme heat of the day by burrowing itself in the sand by the creek.
If you are hiking at night this is an incredible treat to see something rare and truly unique to the area. It is said to be either an olive green or tan with dark spots on warty skin.
There are also reports of large, bullfrog tadpoles swimming in the springs and creeks.
Great Places to Stay Overnight
There are a few camping options available for those looking to stay the night in the area. Camping next to the hot springs or in the valley itself is not allowed.
Bowen Ranch, the same family you pay to use the trails, rents out some of its land for camping at a rather affordable price. These are built up, permanent camping grounds, so you do not get the traditional camping feeling of being isolated or exposed to the elements.
For more rugged campers, there are other, free options located by Lake Arrowhead and Lake Silverwood.
Don’t Forgo Camping
Staying overnight might be a wise option for most individuals, as this hike isn’t as easy as it seems.
Keep in mind that the hike back up from the valley and hot springs is going to be challenging. Because it is such a monumental slope towards the springs, returning from your adventure will require some hard work on your part.
Hikers reported feeling absolutely wiped after their return hike from the Deep Creek hot springs. In fact, search and rescue is reported to come every day to rescue someone from exhaustion.
Another point to keep in mind is that sitting in a heated pool or hot spring saps energy from your body quickly. So, it’s not just the hike itself that will exhaust you.
It is not an easy place to get to, which is also part of its charm. So, taking a rest and some time to rehydrate and refuel after this adventure might be wise, especially if it is particularly hot.
Why the Deep Creek Hot Springs?
Debating whether or not you should go to a hot spring in the middle of a boiling, arid desert? Hot springs are surprisingly popular no matter what time of year, be it the middle of winter or the depths of summer.
Thermal Spring Culture is Global
Japan is particularly well known for its hot spring culture.
Bath houses are scattered throughout the country and packed to the gills with customers - no matter what time of year it is. It could be the middle of a hot, humid day and most bathhouses both inside and outside of the city would be occupied.
Why is this? Well, hot springs are full of healthy minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and natural lithium. Soaking in one replenishes your body of these essential minerals while the heat relaxes your muscles. It is an amazing release of tension.
So, even though the air temperature is about as hot as the water itself, your body will thank you for a dip in some desert hot springs.
Toketee Falls: Oregon’s Most Photographed Waterfall
The Pacific Northwest is one of the most beautiful places in the United States to go hiking. You have lush forests, mountains, wide expanses of Sequoia trees that dwarf some of our largest skyscrapers, and a thriving, local culture that cherishes the out-of-doors.
What Else Deep Creek Has to Offer
If a simple soak isn’t necessarily your thing, then Deep Creek might hold some other, hidden charms for you.
On your way to the hot springs, take advantage of the natural diversity and enjoy some ample fishing. This area in particular is known for its wide variety of fish, breeding everything from Brown and Rainbow trout to Mojave Chub. So, want to go fishing in the middle of the desert? Deep Creek is definitely a place to check out.
Additionally, if you want to see more of the San Bernardino Forest, you can hike further up the trail to where Deep Creek drains into more hot springs. About an hour up from the spring are a few campgrounds to enjoy, one being Silverwood and the other called Mess campground.
What to Keep in Mind While Visiting the Hot Springs
Once you get to the hot springs there are a few very important things to keep in mind.
As with most hot springs, stay away from drinking the water. In some instances, this is not that big of a deal, but with Deep Creek, there have been reports of primary amoebic Meningoencephalitis, a fatal disease that results in the infection of your brain and brain membrane.
Now, this is an extremely rare disease, but it has been found in waters that run hot within the Deep Creek area, so do your best not to ingest the water or dip your head in the hot springs.
Watch Out for Wildlife
Never forget that you are surrounded by wildlife. This area is known for rattlesnakes, so be especially careful around large rocks and rock outcroppings, as this is where the rattlers love to hang out.
Stay Hydrated and Cool
Last but not least, take care of your body. The temperature during the summer can reach a sweltering 100 degrees Fahrenheit, so make sure you are dressed appropriately, use sunscreen, and keep hydrated.
Visit Deep Creek Hot Springs
All in all, hot springs are not too common in the United States, so if you have a chance to go, do not forgo this opportunity.
There is nothing quite like soaking in a natural hot spring, absorbing the beneficial minerals and letting your muscles relax. Taking a dip into these wonderful geothermal pools in the middle of the desert, however, is a particularly unique experience.
So, if you are hiking cross-country along the Pacific Crest Trail, camping overnight at the Bowen Ranch, or simply want to see the wonderful variety of southern California, don’t miss out on taking advantage of these hot springs.